A swarm of bees has stung 63 endangered penguins on a beach outside Cape Town, South Africa. According to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, the protected species of birds were found dead on Friday in Simon’s Town.
A clinical veterinarian who works at the foundation, David Roberts said:
After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes. This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often, it’s a fluke. There were also dead bees on the scene.
The area where the penguins were found dead at is a national park and the ‘killer bees’ - Cape honeybees - are also part of that ecosystem.
Although initial examinations point to bee stings as the cause of death, park authorities said they have sent out samples for disease and toxicology testing to rule out other possible causes. Roberts said:
The penguins … must not die just like that, as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species.
Alison Kock, a South African National Parks marine biologist, thanked the organization's partners, and the City of Cape Town, for their assistance in investigating the ‘unusual event.’ She said in a statement:
No more dead African penguins were found on site today, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
Found along the coastlines of South Africa, African penguins are the only penguin species found on the African continent.
These birds are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of animals that face a high risk of extinction.
They were declared endangered a decade ago after their population saw a drastic decline from more than a million at the beginning of the 20th century to just 55,000 in 2010.